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I was asked yesterday about strategic planning in law firms.

"Quick! Based on your experience, what are the three most important things that law firms need to keep in mind about strategic planning."

I paused to consider my answer.

"Come on," my interrogator said, smiling. "No pondering. What is your gut reaction?"

"I'll give you a bonus," I replied. "Here are four things."

These are four points that were at the top of my mind. They are not the only important considerations. Some of these might be more important for some firms than for others. However, I think that these are a good start.

  • Build on the strong foundations that you already have. It is easier to execute successfully a strategy that is based on an existing strength, such as in a practice speciality or industry sector, than to try to construct something completely new.
  • Be prepared to shift your paradigms. The practice of law is changing rapidly. Assumptions that used to govern the way that we planned and managed our practices might not longer work. (Remember how people used to say, "You will never get lawyers to use computers?")
  • Remember that your most precious asset is partner time. Try to minimize the amount of time that will be required for partners to implement the strategy. Look for strategic objectives that will produce the greatest return on the investment of partner time. Focus the attention of your partners on what is critical to your success and avoid distractions.
  • Get help. The strategic planning process goes much more efficiently and usually produces better results when you have an outside facilitator with specific experience in law firm management. With an expert facilitator, you and your partners can focus on the content of your strategy, rather than also having to manage the process of developing it.

This last point might seem a little self-serving, coming from someone who advises law firms on strategic planning. But it's true, nonetheless.

Norman Clark